Legal Matter Management Systems: What They Are and How to Choose One
You open your inbox to see an increasingly impatient Jan in accounting asking for an update on costs last month for Project Blue.
You don’t even have time to open your files for the latest Project Blue update before your General Counsel rings. She’s meeting the VP of Product in 30 minutes and needs to know how many inbound IP disputes have been filed this quarter.
Tracking all this information manually across multiple tools and several devices is the path to madness. Fortunately, there’s a better way for legal ops teams. It’s called a legal matter management system.
A legal matter management system centralizes and organizes key matter information and empowers legal professionals to operate more proactively. This reduces inefficiencies and ensures every legal matter is managed effectively.
What Is Legal Matter Management?
Legal matter management refers to the processes, practices, and tools legal professionals use to oversee and handle legal matters, meaning cases or projects. It encompasses a wide range of activities and responsibilities. These include tracking key matter information, billing, document management, and task management.
In a nutshell, legal matter management empowers you to handle every matter from the moment work begins until the matter is closed.
Legal matter management can be facilitated through legal matter management systems. The right software can help you with the core activities of matter management, like managing key information and legal spend related to a matter.
However, as your team grows and the matters the department handles get more complex, the right matter management tool will scale to meet your needs. That’s when features like document management, task management, and calendaring can give you an extra edge in efficiency.
Software platforms like Brightflag combine all the tools needed to manage legal matters effectively. That’s why a 2021 Association of Corporate Counsel report found that 66 percent of those who use matter management tools together with e-billing called them the most effective legal technology for their department.
Using these systems allows you to stay organized, meet deadlines, and maintain a clear record of your activities. They also allow you to deliver better outcomes for your business.
The Five Must-Have Components Of A Legal Matter Management System
The success of any legal ops team hinges on the efficiency and accuracy of its processes. A legal matter management system is built to optimize those processes.
1. Centralizes all your legal team’s matters in one place
At any given moment, your legal team is likely working matters ranging from IP disputes to regulatory advice. Each of those matters comes with its deluge of status updates, documents, and invoices. And, without a legal matter management system, much of that information is likely in a silo scattered across various software systems, hard drives, and email chains.
The result? Lost time and a lack of visibility over ongoing work. A legal matter management solution houses all your matters under a single, secure, cloud-based roof. This setup lets your legal department access the information it needs when it needs it. No more juggling between systems or wading through disjointed email threads.
With data coming from and stored in one place, the chances of discrepancies, miscommunications, or inconsistencies drastically decrease. Now, your team members, vendors, and stakeholders are on the same page. And legal leadership has a birds eye view of all the work that’s going on in the legal department. That includes insights into what teams might be overloaded, and how much work is being sent to outside counsel.
The centralization of legal matters isn’t just a matter of convenience. It’s a strategic move that elevates efficiency, accuracy, and visibility.
2. Tracks key information for your matters
With matter management software, you can quickly sort matters by department, entity, practice area,, and more. And using customizable fields, you can track key data of interest to your business, such as matter complexity, priority, or the product line the matter relates to.
Implementing this level of tracking makes it easy for your legal ops team to slice and dice matters to make data-driven decisions. Your Head of Litigation needs updates on all IP matters in North America? No problem. Your GC wants to know what simple matters are sent to high-cost firms, so you can in-source those instead? Easy.
Matter management software also makes it easy to record key data points for specific matter types. For example, you might want to track the opposing counsel and expected settlement amount for litigation matters, while for M&A work, you want to know the corporate entities involved in the deal and the age of the target company. You can quickly create configurable templates optimized for different kinds of legal work, and ensure that all key information is tracked.
3. Offers deep reporting capabilities
A primary goal of corporate legal departments is to help the department operate like a business. To do that, you need accurate, reliable data.
Legal matter management systems make it easy not just to store key matter information, but to report on it in a digestible way that enables data-driven decision-making.
For example, legal ops teams can use legal matter management systems to find out which business units or product lines are driving the bulk of outside counsel engagements. Or which practice areas are resourcing work most cost-effectively.
Matter management software helps you track benchmark metrics for vendors to see how well they serve your needs. They also compare how long different firms take to close similar kinds of matters, and how they resource those matters. Or measure how much they bill for internal meetings compared to tangible work.
4. Tracks spend
To effectively set and stay within a budget, you need to pinpoint where every dollar is spent. But tracking spend across hundreds of matters in dozens of regions, each generating thousands of invoices, is no picnic.
That’s why legal ops teams need a matter management tool. By centralizing all your spend data, legal matter management software makes it much easier to track where budget is allocated and how it’s spent.
Add automatic checks for outside counsel guideline compliance using AI tools, and invoice review becomes almost automatic.
With matter management tools, you can break down spend by firm, matter, task, and staffing. This software serves as the single source of truth. Which, in turn, eliminates the need for complicated spend management spreadsheets.
5. Manages documents, tasks, and calendars
Imagine having a tool where you can store any type of document, and—this is the best part—easily find it later.
Many matter management tools also make searching your documents’ full text, as well as filtering by author, date, and other attributes possible. They also offer granular access controls so you can limit who can see or edit different tasks or documents.
Turn Busy Work Into Business With Brightflag
With the right legal matter management system, legal teams can transform routine tasks and data entry into actionable insights. And align legal operations more closely with broader business goals. Yet, a 2021 Deloitte report found only 42% of legal ops teams believe they have the right tools and processes to achieve that strategy.